I have spent my 30 years as a Law Enforcement Professional, and I am also a childhood friend of Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. I heard the news straight from Kenneth’s mouth that the White Plains Police Department killed his father. I have assisted many families of questionable police shootings, but the killing of Kenny’s father to me was personal, it was like getting a call that my father was killed. I have watched those who claimed they supported Justice for his father to stay silent in public, and others we thought would rally the call but for political reasons stay away from the issue. This movie makes us question our commitment to Justice, and before black lives can matter to anyone, it must matter to black people first.
When the audio from the life alert recording was first made public, we could never imagine that officers would act in that manner towards anyone. I also would never guess that an officer serving in that manner would not be punished by their department or criminally charged by the District Attorney.
Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. is not here to tell his story, but the audio recording recorded the entire act of state terrorism by the White Plains Police Department. The audio recording was the blueprint given from Mr. Chamberlain as a guide to his family, an example of strength and courage of a black man protecting his rights to live in his home without unlawful search and seizure. The audio recording, Mr. Chamberlain’s words, ultimately was a guide for this powerful movie; in my opinion, this movie will create the ongoing conversation needed on how police deal with mental health and the ongoing need for how police leadership deals with racial biases within the police culture.
If you didn’t know Mr. Chamberlain, you will meet him in this movie. Actor Frankie Faison brings Mr. Chamberlain to life. He brings the struggle of a man dealing with mental illness and makes a fatal mistake activating his life pendent and just wanted to be left alone to go back to sleep.
You will also meet the fictional White Plains Police Officers, Seargent Parks, played by Steve Odonell, Officer Jackson, played by Ben Marten, and Officer Rossi, played by Enrico Natale.
The audience becomes first-hand witnesses to police biases and prejudgments of someone base on where they live and their color, an unfortunate problem in our law enforcement culture. I felt like a fly on the wall witnessing an escalation from what we called trained professionals who are supposed to deescalate at every means necessary. As a retired Correction Officer and United States Marine Veteran, you see Mr. Chamberlain several times attempt to deescalate the police even after these so-called trained professionals escalates a situation to the point of no return.
This movie is a harsh reminder of the responsibility of Law Enforcement leaders, as I said many times, that Law Enforcement Leadership is the primary key to Law Enforcement Officer accountability. Law Enforcement Leaders and politicians fail to address the rooted racial bias, conscious or unconscious in policing when it comes to Black people, especially Black men in particular. The unjust shootings of Black men by Law Enforcement has become more American than Apple Pie.
Of course, many in this Justice System genuinely believes in the core tenants of Justice. At the end of the day, the rank and file of our Justice System are victims as well because of fear of losing a paycheck, promotion, or so-called respect of their comrades; they play along with this dismal downfall of trust in this system we call Justice. All along forgetting the oath, we take to uphold the State Constitution and the Constitution of the United States and its citizens.
The visual fight of Mr. Chamberlain to stand his ground to protect his home, his constant contact with Life Alert, and his quoting of his constitutional rights is encouraging. Even knowing that Mr. Chamberlain will be killed, you still sit on the edge of your seat, hoping his stance for his respect and his home leads to another outcome.
Like many black men before and after Mr. Chamberlain, his rights didn’t mean anything to these officers. Their continued actions to justify their actions put an exclamation point to Justice B. Tayney’s 1957, Dred Scott case opinion that all blacks — slaves as well as free — were not and could never become citizens of the United States. The framers of the Constitution, he wrote, believed that blacks “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect. Mr. Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. – black man, veteran, retired Correction Officer, called “nigger” and shot and killed by White Plains Police when he refused to open his door when his medical alert alerted the police by accident; is a proven fact that this Supreme Court Opinion has yet to be reversed in the DNA of Law Enforcement.
I watched the movie at both showings, and both times seeing the movie, I cried. I cried because of the pain I saw Mr. Chamberlain endure, the pain of knowing his son and his family, and the pain they have endured. I cried cause of the pain of being a black man who puts on that same uniform and badge as these officers and is conscious enough to know that without that badge, without that uniform, I am nothing but a nigger and will be killed just like Mr. Chamberlain. New York State has a history of 27 Black Law Enforcement Officers in plain clothes or off duty, who was shot, shot at, or killed by their white counterparts, but incidents like this have never happened in reverse.
A study, published in The Lancet, found that when U.S. officers shoot and kill unarmed Black people, it has a negative impact on the mental state of Black Americans in those states Researchers pored over mental health survey data and a database on police shootings to solidify their findings, which they described as “observable and real.”
As someone who has worked closely with families of victims of unjust police killings, I can say first hand that it takes an enormous toll on the mental stability of family members and friends.
According to a 2012 poll by lohud.com, 84% of the people polled thought that the killing of Kenneth Chamberlain was NOT JUSTIFIED.
This movie is a sad reality of what Black people face on a daily basis. But how do we have the needed conversation when our own Black elected officials refuse to watch it? This movie was shown for two days, and out of all the Black elected officials invited, only two attended. Not one elected official from White Plains attended and not one County Legislator.
It is unfortunate that this special screening wasn’t important to our Black elected officials. The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain Movie was and is the sad history of racism in Westchester that many Black elected officials refuse to accept or publicly acknowledge. It is a punch in the gut reality that still our black leaders have refused to accept or are afraid that the visual that this movie gives will force them to finally act. In dealing with police and community relations, this screening was the most important Black History Month event in the county. The elected that did attend, will they take the information given to make a change, or will we see more of the same?
Our Black elected officials must realize that they are not immune to the chance that the next man or woman that is killed might be their close friend or family member. The only way to truly address this disease is to pass local, state and federal legislation for oversight of law enforcement’s use of force policies, training of officers and independent investigations of complaints of questionable actions by officers.
The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain movie is beyond the touch of anti-police rhetoric; it is based on real police actions and words. It is a reality America needs to face, and Black America’s leadership needs to finally see.